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Head coach Mike McCarthy comes away excited by his initial draft class with Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys selected four players for the defense and three players for the offense in Mike McCarthy’s inaugural NFL Draft in Dallas.
Credit: AP Photo/Brandon Wade
New Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, left, is introduced by team owner Jerry Jones, right, during a press conference at the Dallas Cowboys headquarters Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, in Frisco, Texas.

DALLAS —

The 2020 NFL Draft is now firmly in the rearview mirror, the undrafted free agency period has passed, and we can now look forward to the 2020 NFL season. Or, at least, we hope we can. 

The Cowboys walked away with quite a haul of players who will likely be able to produce almost immediately if indeed an NFL season is in the cards for 2020.

No one could have imagined that the draft would shake out so favorable for Dallas with a first round coup setting the tone for the whole weekend. 

No. 17 - WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

CeeDee Lamb was sitting there at No. 17 overall, and the Cowboys did not hesitate to swoop in to get their new playmaker. New Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy was pleased to land the Oklahoma standout. Said McCarthy on his talented first-rounder, “He is dynamic with the ball in his hand and I’ve really enjoyed the way he goes after the football. So, obviously very excited about his addition to the offense.”

Lamb racked up 3,292 yards in Norman which made him third in Sooners history behind Ryan Broyles and Sterling Shepard. 

Lamb likely takes over in the slot for the departed Randall Cobb. Lamb also has the ability to play any of the receiver spots on the field, whether that is from the slot or outside. At least that is how McCarthy sees it: “First thing that comes to mind when I think of him is that he’s dynamic; His ability to step into the offense and play all four positions at the wide receiver slots. I think he is a natural fit for how we want to play offense.”

No. 51 - CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama

There was no question that the Cowboys needed to address their cornerback situation with Byron Jones leaving for Miami. The Cowboys struggled to create turnovers for their offense and that was obviously a concern for this team. 

One way that the Cowboys decided to address both the need at corner and the need to create turnovers was by grabbing Trevon Diggs out of Alabama in the second round. Diggs was a player that many had linked to the Cowboys with their first pick, but he was able to fall right into their lap at pick No. 51. 

McCarthy was especially happy with Diggs’ ability to produce takeaways: “Doesn’t take long when you are watching the tape: smooth, long athletic and we are putting such an emphasis on turnover ratio.” 

The Cowboys finished with a (-1) turnover differential last year. So while they weren’t turning it over much, the team couldn’t create any extra opportunities for the offense either.

“That will be a big part of our daily focus as a football team and this young man goes and gets the football. So, the way we want to play, particularly in the back end, I think he also is an excellent fit,” McCarthy concluded on his second-round corner.

No. 82 - DL Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma

While the Cowboys were a top 12 defense in terms of yardage in both passing and rushing, there was a noticeable hole up the middle. While defensive tackle Maliek Collins left via free agency to the Las Vegas Raiders, Dallas was able to snag Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe for their interior defense. 

Both DTs come over from Carolina to bolster the middle of the defense. However, both players are in their 30s, so it was important for the team to find some youth and that is where Neville Gallimore comes in. McCarthy was happy to see a young big body added to the class: “The first thing that jumps out at me on the film is sideline to sideline. He’s active, pursuit, his ability to penetrate”

Landing Gallimore in the third round provided another good value selection for the Cowboys and was one that McCarthy feels suits the team’s needs. “I think he has versatility - playing the different techniques in our number schemes - that he will be utilized in there too, so he’s a very good fit for our defensive line group.”

No. 123 - CB Reggie Robinson II, Tulsa

The Cowboys kept the defensive theme going into day three of the draft. They selected yet another long and tall cornerback with Reggie Robinson II out of Tulsa. McCarthy was surprised the CB made it to Dallas in the fourth round: “I just remember the first time watching tape on him and you’re wondering why he’s not part of the conversation with the other guys up there in the first two rounds.”  

Robinson gives Dallas yet another corner that excels playing press man and attacks the ball in the air. New defensive backs coach Al Harris stated that the team likes bigger corners which Robinson fits at 6'1", 205 lbs.

No. 146 - C Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin

Going into the offseason, not many thought that Dallas would need to find their center of the future. The Travis Frederick retirement was understandable but not exactly one that many saw coming. The team re-signed Joe Looney and they had options with interior linemen Connor Williams and Connor McGovern, but the coaching staff seemed eager to find a prospect. 

Looney started all 16 games in 2018 when Frederick was absent and McGovern played center at Penn State. However, that didn’t stop the Cowboys from trading up to the final pick of the fourth round to get another Badgers center in Tyler Biadasz. McCarthy added, “To be able to have another Wisconsin center and, not to put any pressure on him, I think he’s what you’re looking for.” 

Biadasz is not the likely starter in 2020, but the goal is for him to earn that spot in the future and McCarthy likes his chances, “Making calls, plays with great power - you can see it in the angles that he’s a natural center, so that’s why the importance of going up and getting him there at the end of the fourth round was awesome.”

No. 179 - DE Bradlee Anae, Utah

In the NFL, games are won in the trenches, so after getting a center, the Cowboys shifted back to the defensive side of the ball with the selection of Bradlee Anae of Utah with their fifth-rounder. McCarthy came away impressed by Anae’s fortitude, “[Anae is] tough, hard nosed, he brings that dimension, plays the game the right way.”

The Utes saw a big portion of their defense go in this year’s draft and McCarthy ended up watching a lot of tape of Utah’s games and he liked what he saw from Anae: “What a great defense they had and a number of excellent players and prospects and this guy, he led the charge.” 

Anae was a guy that many thought could go as early as round three so the fact that he was still available in the sixth was a blessing for Dallas. Anae is very technically sound and plays with a mean streak. He can be an absolute bully up front and helps soften the blow of losing Robert Quinn in free agency after he led the team in sacks a season ago. 

No. 231 - QB Ben DiNucci, James Madison 

The seventh round of any NFL Draft is usually a time where teams will take a flyer on a player that they like who they don’t want to lose in the rapid undrafted free agency period that immediately follows the draft. Picking a final raw prospect allows teams to get their guy without having to fight off other teams, much like what the Cowboys did with Geoff Swaim several years back. 

The team decided that this year’s project would be a developmental quarterback in Ben DiNucci, a first-team All-Colonial Athletic Association selection last year. It certainly helps that DiNucci is someone who McCarthy is familiar with.

By McCarthy’s eyes, the James Madison product will provide depth and competition for backup quarterback Cooper Rush: “He’s a young man that’s played the position his whole life and he’ll be an excellent addition to our quarterback room and just continue to develop that room with our other two young guys and Dak.”

All in all, the Cowboys came away with a very impressive draft class in Mike McCarthy’s first chance in Dallas. Most impressively, the Cowboys were able to stick to their board while still addressing team needs.

This is an overall step in the right direction for Dallas’ vice president of player personnel Will McClay and the new staff. The team can now focus on putting it all together with the hopes of retaking the top spot in the division. While there are still opportunities to improve the team, the draft class should provide hope for the future.

Do you agree with Mike McCarthy about his first draft in Dallas? Share your thoughts on the draft class with Patrick on Twitter @PatSportsGuy.

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